Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Fishy story

June 10th, 2006

 MOTHER' NATURE is a bit of a misnomer sometimes. It's survival of the fittest out there, and no tears shed over an early death or a life not even lived.

The dogs and I walk in two uncultivated stubble fields left in  set aside'. It's great walking at this time of year because the stream runs between them and there's a wide variety of wildlife. I've found an oystercatcher's nest in amongst the stubble, open to the elements and predators. One egg hadn't hatched, but at least one other did, because we were regularly scolded by anxious parent birds the moment we went into the field.

We found a pheasant's egg which had been removed from the nest, possibly by one of the jackdaws which come to the garden during the nesting season. That was one chick that would never see the light of day. The egg was punctured and Macbeth was licking out the remainder of the yolk, which dribbled out of the shell when I picked it up. Just one example of the way that predators survive.

Further on we came across two more pheasant eggs where chicks had obviously hatched. The empty shells had been dropped well away from the nests so as not to draw unwelcome attention to the fledglings. An empty partridge egg told a similar story of success.

A dead leveret lay unmourned on the road. They have a tendency to try to outrun cars as they seek an escape route, so it's worthwhile slowing down to give them the chance to dart into the undergrowth.

Sometimes a fishy story comes along that's hard to swallow. Many years ago a bounty was paid (quite legally) by commercial salmon netsmen, for every pair of cormorant feet which were handed into them. The cormorants preyed (they still do) on the young salmon smolts making their way downriver to the sea, where they grow to adult size. This was looked on with disapproval by the fishermen.

A man watched a cormorant (or  scart', locally) fishing at the mouth of the River South Esk. When the bird rose from the water, he shot it. He opened it up to see what it had been feeding on, and inside found a fresh caught trout with a record tag attached to its fin. He handed the tag into the then Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, who paid him £1 for its return.

He received a five-shilling (25p) bounty for the scart's feet, and he ate the trout for his breakfast! I'm assured it all happened as it's told.

Reference last week to not casting a clout till May month is out, brought a response from a reader. Hawthorn blossom is called  the May', and country folk were cautioned not to discard their woolly long-johns till the May blossom had fallen from the trees.